Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Bicentennial Hall

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Institution Name: Middlebury College
Original/Historic Place Name: Bicentennial Hall
Location on Campus: Bicentennial Way
Date(s) of Construction:
1996-1999original construction Payette Associates
Designer: Payette Associates (Boston)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Postmodern, Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Walls: granite
Roof: slate
1999-present (2006)academic department building (science)

Bicentennial Hall was built to house Middlebury's sciences (biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, computer science, geology, geography, and psychology). The decision was consciously made to place all of these disciplines under a single roof rather than in a quadrangle of smaller structures in order to foster lines of communication and collaboration that had begun to develop in their outgrown 1968 Science Center, as well as to avoid redundancies of necessary facilities. It provided common access to greenhouses, animal care facilities, computer and GIS labs, and a science library. It permitted the innovative concept of an entire wing dedicated to generic laboratories that could easily be reconfigured to be shared on a term-by-term basis among the departments for lower level courses with less specialized equipment needs, and that could be utilized in summers for language school classrooms. Combined with this spatial efficiency are a wide variety of collaborative informal study spaces with blackboard walls, high-tech lecture halls served by a common set-up room, and a great hall that serves as a major campus meeting, events, and study space. Designed counter to the conventional wisdom of science consultants, the building has become an important prototype, designated Laboratory of the Year in 2000 by Cahner's R & D Magazine.

Bicentennial Hall also serves other college initiatives. Its placement at the northwestern extremity of the campus in order to gain sufficient space and avoid crowding in the core of the college was determined in accordance with the college master plan, serving to anchor a newly designated "academic arc," a pedestrian way across the campus along which academic functions will be concentrated, while also moving classrooms and twenty-four-hour study facilities closer to major dormitories. Its mass is set into a hillside to reduce the scale impact on the historic campus, and its materials, details, profile, and proportions are designed to echo themes from its historic context--visible roofs, rhythms of punched windows, ventilation stacks clustered into chimney-like forms, anobservatory set as a cupola--answering a college challenge that new buildings on campus be of their times but of this place. Bicentennial Hall also launched a new set of college environmental guidelines. Its systems are designed to maximize energy efficiency, e.g. with heat exchangers to recapture building heat from air to be exhausted. Its materials were selected to maximize regional and environmentally responsible resources and have a high percentage of recycled content. Abundant wood finishes within the building feature sustainably harvested and locally milled certified lumber--used in such quantity that this single project played an important role in launching a regional certified lumber industry in Vermont.


Jenks-Jay, Nan. "Cultivating a Shared Environmental Vision at Middlebury College." In Sustainability on Campus: Stories and Strategies for Change. ed. Peggy F. Barlett and Geoffrey W. Chase, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004: 293-310.

Middlebury College Project Review Committee. Designing the Future: A Framework for Implementation. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College, 2002.

Wallace Floyd Design Group. Middlebury College Master Plan, [Boston, MA: Wallace Floyd Design Group], 2000.


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Last update: November 2006